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Engineering a Photo-Switch for Nerve Cells in the Eye and Brain

BrightFocus-funded Research Could Lead to New Treatments for Blinding Diseases

November 28, 2012

Source: Nature Communications

Dr. PepperbergResearch Summary: BrightFocus-funded Drs. Pepperberg and Qian led a group that designed a chemical switch, called MPC088, which could one day serve as a light-detecting substitute in eyes that have lost their light-detecting retina cells, called photoreceptors. MPC088 was created by essentially “gluing” a light-sensitive chemical onto the anesthetic, propofol, which normally binds to a nerve cell surface protein, called a GABA receptor. When the research group added MPC088 to a number of different types of cultured cells (including optic nerve and brain cells), they found that this switch could detect light and transmit a signal through the GABA receptor to activate the cells.

Significance: The blindness associated with age-related macular degeneration and other retinal degenerative diseases can come from loss of the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells. This research group has designed an agent that could serve as a potential light-detecting replacement for these lost cells. Further work is needed to determine if this system could be incorporated into a future treatment for people who have age-related macular degeneration. In addition, the researchers believe this switch could be used in a treatment for non-blinding brain diseases, such as quieting epileptic seizures.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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